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Defense budget: to cut $100 billion, Army and Marines will shrink

The Defense budget signals the close of 'endless money' for post-9/11 spending, Secretary Robert Gates says. Some cuts will be reinvested in the military, others will go to deficit reduction.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / January 6, 2011

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (l.) and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen talk to the media about defense budget cuts Thursday at the Pentagon.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Washington

The Pentagon budget, rolled out Thursday, is the realization of a warning Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued shortly after America’s economy took a turn for the worse – that the “culture of endless money” created in the booming post-9/11 defense budget would soon be coming to an end.

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It is also the Pentagon’s bid to preempt even larger cuts from the White House or Congress, which were expected if the military did not curtail what Mr. Gates Thursday called the department’s often “wasteful, excessive, and unneeded spending.”

At $553 billion, the budget is some $13 billion less than the Pentagon expected for 2012, says Gates, but still represents 3 percent growth over fiscal year 2011, and the Pentagon remains the largest single spender of federal dollars.

Indeed it’s all relative. While the Pentagon has identified $178 billion in cuts for the five years from fiscal year 2012 to 2016, it plans to reinvest about $100 billion of that into its own services, leaving the remainder for deficit reduction. Overall, the defense budget – which does not including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – will continue to increase until 2015, when it flattens.

Cuts to Army and Marines – after 2014

The 2015 cuts will include shrinking the size of the US Army and Marine Corps. The 2015 date is significant. Afghan forces are to assume responsibility for security in their country in 2014 – presumably allowing US forces to depart in large numbers. This is expected to save the Defense Department roughly $6 billion over the course of the five-year budget plan.

Cuts proposed for this fiscal year are likely to include programs that the services hold dear, including the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a high-speed landing craft conceived during the Reagan administration and plagued with cost overruns.

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